EarthPoem Archives
Site Map
Teacher Resources
Teacher Resources
Learn Ecology
Kids' Earth Art
Members' Writing
John Caddy
Contact MorningEarth

John Caddy's
Morning Earth Poems
May 2001



The cat sits on the aquarium, looks
out the morning window.
His tail drapes down the glass,
curls and waves as birds pass by.
A dozen little rainbowfish surround
the image of this black tail,
school with it as it plays against
transparent mystery.


The cat is seeing birds, whose images transform into curls and twitches of his tail, which in turn become movement in a school of fish, and the whole series becomes squiggles on my computer screen which will shortly fly electrically across the planet. What can these small fish be seeing? The Mother of Worms? Simple novelty? I have no clue, but the sequence charms. Transparent mysteries are as directly in front of our eyes as they are the fishes'—all we do not perceive or whose presence we do not guess.



Dry as a dragonfly wing
Ladybird emerges from her winter crevice
in the kitchen cabinets, walks
slow across the counterstone to sink,
where she strolls the rim,
as I admire her colors
bright as when she went to sleep. I hope
she doesn't see above her on the windowsill
a sister's husk dome down, belly up
with tiny black legs clenched.
She findsthe water drop I place before her.
After, we travel to the tulip bed
where I trust she will be fed.


Encounters with tough little survivors can evoke compassion, no matter how many legs. We are all in life a community, each with the same problems: water, food, a place to be. Our response to small sharers of our homes is too often violent, which with each repetition diminishes us. Generosity of spirit enlarges us. Life requires killing; the issue is balance.



I dreamed last night two springs ago,
the day I walked an English garden path
and came upon three kids playing on
a strong sculpture of a donkey, bronze I think,
that looked somehow familiar, totemic
in its donkey strength and stretch.
One child calmly rode, one embraced the head,
one ran his hand up and down gouged ribs.
Nanny sat a nearby bench,
beneath an ancient flowered apple.
In dream I was again amazed when I saw
the donkey was Picasso's.


How should we respond to art? How should we be allowed to respond to art? I won't pretend to know, but I do know how touching sculptures rewires the sense of touch and with it, form. I am inordinately pleased that in a garden at Dartington Hall, Devon, a small bronze donkey is allowed to welcome children.



Lichens drink rainfall
swell green
and release the water bears
who lumber microscopically
across a vast terrain
released to life again by rain
from the state of tun, invulnerable
to cold or heat or drought,
the toughest life on earth.
As long as there is rain
the water bears will unroll from tun
and through moss and lichen lumber on.


The multitudes of life are just below our sight. We forget that we are macro-life, enormous compared to almost every cousin on the tree. John Keats said, "The world is full of magical things, waiting for our eyes to grow sharper." And our eyes have. Perhaps our real importance is to be Earth's eyes; perhaps our charge is to grow them sharper, so we can truly see the interwebbed multitude that is the whole.

FYI: Tardigrades, or water bears, are incredibly resilient critters. In their dormant ‘tun' state they are unfazed by temperatures as low -272C or high as 151C; X-ray radiation 1000x times the human lethal dose; vacuum; 6000 atmospheres pressure (about six times the pressure in the deepest ocean trench. When a piece of dried-up moss which had been kept in a museum for 120 years was wetted, tardigrades successfully recovered from their tuns in the moss.



The book says orioles are blackbirds, but
yesterday's flames of orange burn open my eyes.
Two pairs arrive, demand food and do receive
oranges, up from the tropics like themselves,
bright travelers well met upon my deck, black beaks
plunge into halved oranges (I licked the cut sides first).
They eat orange sections in sequence, neatly
round the circle, one by one, and I plunge
into eating grapefruit as a child, learning
from my mother to eat the sections
round the circle, one by one,
like these ignited blackbirds eat
the clockface orange of sliced suns.


As I write, a male sings from high in an oak, in a song duel with the male beyond the pond. Orioles are so outrageously beautiful in spring that they are almost too much for
winter-drabbed eyes. I am delighted that their careful way of eating oranges connected me to my mother's memory. Everything really does hook up, large and small, old and newly seen, tongues of oriole and child, sweet and sad.
So, why on earth would orioles eat orange sections in sequence round the circle? Delight in sweet rounds of mystery.



In a yard of graves I met a tree
old when Francis Drake spilled wine
on the long oak trestle here, old
when King John considered here
the arrogance of barons.
Far older than these graves,
this yew cast shade that pierced me
with its shafts of light
I met this tree, this yew
sacred to the druid,
this ancient tree of churchyards,
old master of rebirth so rich with time
my throat can't close on it.
With my face on bark
I embraced this tree, but it holds me.


The presence of old trees is palpable. Martin Buber, in "I and Thou", discussed the "thouness" of trees. In another place Buber said, "The world is not comprehensible, but it is embraceable: through the embracing of one of its beings… He who truly experiences a thing so that it springs up to meet him and embraces him of itself has in that thing known the world..."



Speak to earth, use your every voice,
speak to all her beings;
praise the lives of green
and all the lives with legs,
praise the lives who dance in air
and all who float and swim,
praise the diggers and the delvers under soil,
praise the spores and praise the seeds—
now close your eyes to see
the tiny wrigglers everywhere,
the simpler ones who came before.

When you greet a beetle on your hand,
your words praise earth.
When you rescue from the street a woolly bear,
Praise earth with your chuckle from its tickly feet.
When you lift your eyes to hawks,
your lilting heart is praise to earth.

If we speak well to earth,
she will fill our ears and eyes with secrets,
she will fill our dreams with healing images
she will fill our hearts with joy to share.


I've tried to say things simply here, clearly, without artifice. If this piece strikes you as foolishly mawkish or god awful sentimental, unclench your gluteus maxima.

Lately I've found myself speaking more and more to other beings-- the ant traveling the sink, the blown tulip, Mama Woodchuck. I hope these are not just senior moments; I prefer to think I am recapturing the freedom and especially the willingness of the child. Regression to a simpler time or state is the very hallmark of many therapies (!) or maybe I am just stepping back before I leap. (Yes, I know, senior moments.) Validate your natural normal willingness to speak to everything; it helps us feel connected. It helps us hope. Flow with what is.



Cats on windowsills
chatter at the orioles on oranges
in voices piteous and plaintive
as carnivores can find.
Three tails lash intent.
They brim so with bird!


Predators are so nourished by the moment, so incredibly within the present—they show us a wholeness that we probably lost the moment we conceived of time. Our envy is sadness-tinged, for each of us repeats our species' journey into consciousness as we grow past childhood. But we do find joy in the almost-memory of being so complete. Look for your selves within your cats or dogs.



Unfolding leaves of butternut
tangled green by dawn
say all I dream
of spring and opening.


Sometimes a single image offered by earth pierces us and stays. These brief moments of seeing truly are significant and should be shared. To render such images in words requires careful word choice, rhythm and time. It also takes a little arrogance to think it possible to do. But all we can do is make the attempt to share. Ideally, such small poems drop into a receptive mind as a pebble into a pool, and ripple for a time.



I wake in blessed quiet,
unsilent quiet
of susurrant breeze, calm
of bird song, wandering trill
of treefrogs, lull
of all concern, the quietude
of blue violet and trillium white
which speak now of waking
in the youth of life,
in that blessed bed.


Nature's dawn sounds do not intrude on inner peace; they deepen it. These are the sounds of my personal dawn, the sounds of waking green. This is one of those occasions when we live within a stream of ancient human consciousness; people have felt this kind of waking since before we walked upright. Entries do not require action. Often they are simply celebrations.



She bumbles into every window, hovers
before openings, crawls into cracks again, again
until her palace place is found.
She is urgent and profound, for
within her abdomen, dynasties are quickening.
These sisters are no ordinary wasps,
they are young Queens of May,
dangling gawky legs before us
until they find their place to lay.


There is nothing more determined than a female searching out a safe place to bear her children. For paper wasps, the first necessity is for a hidden place where she can raise her first workers, who can then go out into the world to rasp wood fibers off, swallow them and bring them home to build the hive's first spiral out of magic paper. The wasp queens' urgency is connected to our May poles and our Queens of May. Insect or mammal, all lives dance within the same imperatives.



It began beside the pond, a wilding elm.
When it died we dropped it, topped it,
trimmed branches, tipped its bulk into the pond,
where it resides, locked in ice all winter,
free to windroam in the year’s thawed half.

After April iceout
before duckweed, the log
floats all jaunty on ripples and reflections

In May, how many turtles can fit on a log?
An old game in the pond.
Sunlight gleams on propped shells, hints of plastron red.

One May, wood ducks stand on the log
in the center of the duckweed pond,
one male on each end, one female neatly in the center.
the splendid males face the pond’s opposite shores,
refusing sight of the other.

Late May, Green heron crouches to
hunts tadpoles from the fat end of the log.

Last June, Mama Wooduck on one end,
Seven ducklings spaced along the log beside her.

After storm the log is stranded in mudflat.
Turtles don't care.
Two days on, in the absence of storm, the log
slowly turns in the middle of the pond,
phoebe perched on the high end.


An intimacy with season and cyclic time is a gift to self given by experiencing specific changes or transformations over time. Through phenology (periodic biological phenomena correlated with season), the floating log has become a presence in my spirit. Adopt a nearby tree or perennial plant, or a wet meadow/temporary pond, and record specific, regular impressions over time. Beings and objects so regarded take on a sort of life and even personality, as if our attention quickened them. When we cast our deep attention upon any outside thing this way, we are enlarged.



So many mosquitoes out the window,
a cloud, a mist of hummers out to use my blood
to make more of themselves.
The numbers stagger me. Life's fierce
fecundity frightens me.

The pulsing maggots when as a child
I turned the dead robin because I saw it move.
The year the army worms ate the forest—
when they crossed Highway 53
it was green and slick for miles; when they turned
into moths they were so thick at streetlights
shovels scooped them into trucks.
The time in Chile I watched a line of cormorants
fly south dawn to sunfall.

This exuberance, this swarming nature
disquiets me. It makes me wonder
how we became a swarm.


Nothing goes to waste; every life is recycled, every robin, every dried forlorn mosquito, each cormorant, each human. All lives are food, and chained in food. Without mosquitoes, no little fish; without little fish, no big fish; and so on. All lives belong to one community, and it is the community that eats the swarms. Give that some thinking.



When the woods are wet with green
they sing with light that seems
to start inside each leaf,
each lichen on dark bark
and glows into moist air
inhaled by every spiracle and lung
to make more breath for trees.

The greens on rainy days are endlessly astonishing. Diffused sunlight has no point source, so it really does seem to emanate from every object seen. Spiracles, of course, are the pores along the insect abdomen which function like the vertebrate lung. Insects, far more numerous than vertebrates, create much of the CO2 that plants use to photosynthesize and ultimately feed all of us jumpy types. Make small celebratory songs simply to express appreciation for the gifts. It is an act that enlarges us.



Counting down to June,
pagoda dogwood is on flower,
each blossom tier a white cloud
ranked like cumulus on late summer days
when these rich blooms on this small tree
will have become nests of berries
blue with wine-red stems, each
the willing prey of birds
fattening toward cold.


In this season all the flowering plants work their magic on us, the two legs and the four legs who've learned that flowers lead to berries equals tasty food. What the plants are really up to, of course, is training animals to disperse and plant their seed, the true result of flowering. The drive to reproduce is the source of as much plant behavior as it is that of animals.



In steady rain
great blue heron
neck half crooked
sweeps up from the pond
on umbrella wings,
off to feed chicks hungry-wet
and spiky-feathered cold.


Think beyond your immediate discomfort, and imagine all the lives outdoors. Herons project great power, but weather can whittle down any of us . Young lives are always the most vulnerable. In unseasonably cold wet weather, many hatchlings die.



Everything this morning wants to fly.
A stand of ferns sunglowed, wings
feathered wide and sharp,
about to leap en masse and green the sky.

Maple fruits, samaras in full spiral flight
to earth away from mother tree
on rustly wings precisely shaped
to spin the winds

  Feel "samara" in your mouth, now
there's a word to shape a soul for flight—

And I this morning wish to fly
beyond all words.


Spring is to leap up and dream the old dreams, to make wishes once again. To soar, to skim blue sky, to lark, to be a swallow for a day. But I am ever more strongly anchored to earth. This time around I must settle for words.



Young squirrel had a problem with a rabbit
so he rushed him twice
and startled him to momentary flight, but
third time was the charm. Rabbit
reared and spun, leapt up and kicked
squirrel tail over teakettle with his long strong feet.
Squirrel rolled three yards and rose
frothing from his new topsy-turvy world.


Bullies should all be so kicked and rolled. It is satisfying to watch the biter be bit. Fairness is no doubt a complete abstraction, but we do so yearn. Nature shows us much unbalanced pain when we look at single lives, but now and then, if our eyes are open, we see a brief redress. We've made rabbit a symbol of cowardice, but I suspect they are simply mellow and careful beings. When we write about such saving graces, we get to use fine old words and phrases: comeuppance, just deserts, topsy-turvy, the biter bit, the whole lexicon of melodrama--what fun!



As I stump along the road I watch
a redwing without one wingbeat
launch spread-winged from his treetop
on the road's south side
and on smooth air glide
down to his cattail perch
on the road's north side
where deep in marsh grass
nestlings hide.
He rode a beam cast from his eye
to protect the nest as I walked by.


Such grace belongs to those who can glide between two points linked only by the projection of the glider's eye. This redwinged blackbird did not move his wings at all after launching. Watch the common creatures with some care; like us, they can contain miracles of grace. When I am recycled, I hope that some of the atoms I'm using are blessed by becoming redwinged blackbird flesh.

top of page